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Jake Haefeli with his first mule deer ever. It was taken in the White River area. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Seven prominent groups unite to advocate for backcountry lands
as BLM finalizes management plan administering 1.5 million acres

WASHINGTON – Seven prominent hunting and fishing organizations are speaking out in support of the responsible management of some of the most valuable fish and wildlife habitat in the Rocky Mountain West.

Via advertisements in nine Colorado newspapers, the sportsmen’s groups are urging the Bureau of Land Management to conserve backcountry lands that comprise some of northwest Colorado’s most outstanding public lands hunting and angling. The agency currently is finalizing the White River Resource Management Plan, which will administer 1.5 million acres of federal lands.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Colorado Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and Western Native Trout Initiative are reaching out together to the BLM.

“Please respect the values of sportsmen by balancing energy development with the protection of our backcountry sporting opportunities and abundant fish and wildlife populations in the White River Resource Management Plan,” the groups state.

The areas in question encompass valuable fish and wildlife habitat. Known as the nation’s “mule deer factory,” northwest Colorado also is home to the largest migratory elk herd in North America and irreplaceable native trout fisheries.

Sporting groups in partnership with local sportsmen and businesses dependent on hunting and angling are requesting that the BLM implement a special land-management classification in an effort to conserve the unique wildlife, recreation, and economic values of the region. Called “backcountry conservation areas,” this management category would conserve specific intact and undeveloped public lands that produce robust game populations and provide high quality hunting and fishing opportunities.

The White River Resource Management Plan Amendment under consideration will guide the BLM’s management of the region’s landscape for the foreseeable future. The White River area offers world-class hunting and angling opportunities as well as abundant mineral resources. An estimated 13,000 wells will be drilled in the area in the next 20 years. Sportsmen are requesting a balanced, conservation-minded approach to this development.

Many sportsmen also support the creation of a master leasing plan in the White River area, which would guide development using a landscape-level management approach.

The sportsmen’s ads will be featured in the Rio Blanco Herald Times on Thursday and in the Denver Post and Craig, Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, Boulder, Loveland, Longmont and Canon City papers on Saturday.

Sportsmen speak directly to the need for responsive backcountry management in northwestern Colorado:

“Sportsmen across the state are depending on the BLM to safeguard our backcountry hunting and fishing grounds and the high quality habitat found on the Western Slope,” said Nick Payne, TRCP Colorado field representative. “To that end, the BLM should implement ‘backcountry conservation areas’ to help maintain the area’s world class public land hunting opportunities.”

“Hunting is a way of life in western Colorado, a tradition that my family has cherished for generations,” said Gabe Lucero, owner of Red Rock Archery in Grand Junction. “As an owner of an archery shop, I also depend on northwest Colorado’s quality hunting to pay the bills year after year. The BLM must ensure that sportsmen still have the opportunity for quality public land hunting indefinitely.”

“The deer, elk and pronghorn herds in northwest Colorado provide hunters a variety of hunting experiences,” said John Ellenberger, a retired wildlife biologist with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. “Some areas provide the opportunity for a backcountry hunting experience while others provide the opportunity to bag trophy-size animals. In rare instances, some areas supporting these herds provide the opportunity to do both. As both a hunter and a retired wildlife biologist for the Division of Wildlife, I am intimately familiar with these herds and their habitats. I hope the BLM recognizes what needs to be done to preserve these herds for future generations of Coloradoans.”

“Sportsmen understand the need for quality, undeveloped backcountry habitat, just as we understand the need for responsible energy development. There’s no good reason why we can’t have both,” said Tim Brass with the Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

“In northwest Colorado, native cutthroat populations are under pressure, and safeguarding riparian zones and drainages from development is critical for native trout survival and restoration,” said Robin Knox, coordinator for the Western Native Trout Initiative.

“Retreating to the hunting grounds of the Western Slope’s backcountry is a cherished autumn ritual for many of us in Colorado. Conserving these areas is essential to ensuring this tradition will be enjoyed by the next generation,” said Gaspar Perricone, director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Balancing the energy needs of our state with the unique wildlife value of the region is an attainable goal, and the BLM’s resource management plan should reflect the values of each.”

“The White River Basin offers some of the finest sporting opportunities in our country so sportsmen know we need to do our part to ensure that it stays that way,” said Aaron Kindle, Colorado field coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project.

“This region epitomizes the image hunters and anglers conjure when dreaming of trophy big game and wild trout, and we encourage the BLM to keep the dream alive for future generations by protecting our access and opportunity,” said John Gale, regional representative for the National Wildlife Federation. “Backcountry conservation areas would help safeguard both.”

Learn more about backcountry conservation areas and how they can sustain fish and wildlife habitat valued by sportsmen.

View the sportsmen’s advertisement here.

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Updated federal fracking rule: An opportunity for transparency, stewardship and responsible energy development on our public lands

 

WASHINGTONAs the Interior Department prepares to release new federal fracking regulations, a sportsmen’s coalition is urging officials to make sure the rules will adequately protect air and water quality, fish and wildlife.

 

The update to oil and gas drilling methods on federal and tribal lands is the first in about 30 years, Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development noted Tuesday. Meanwhile, the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has significantly changed, opening previously inaccessible land to development.

 

“The reality is the technology and methods have changed since the original rule was put in place. Today, millions of gallons of fluids and chemicals are injected underground at high pressure,’’ said Brad Powell, energy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “We know there are a lot of good companies doing the right thing. But it’s critical to have safeguards in place. We can’t run the risk of contaminating groundwater or surface water and endangering people, fish and wildlife.”

 

The National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership are the lead partners in the SFRED coalition. SFRED supports requiring companies to disclose the chemicals in fracking fluids both before and after drilling so that appropriate steps can be taken to safeguard natural resources.

 

Hunters and anglers urge the Interior Department to retain provisions in an earlier draft of the rules that address well-casing integrity and fracking fluid waste. The fluids must be properly contained and water quality must be monitored, coalition members said.

 

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee plans a hearing Wednesday on the federal fracking rule. Hunters and anglers encourage committee members to implement federal oil and gas regulations that match the industry’s 21st century technology.

 

SFRED members also stressed that the Bureau of Land Management must not abdicate its responsibility for managing federal lands to the states as some in Congress have suggested.

 

“A responsible Federal policy is needed to set a baseline that all States must meet on Federal lands,’’ SFRED said in written testimony submitted to the Natural Resources Committee.

 

“The committee’s hearing notice calls a new federal rule a recipe for ‘waste, duplication and delay,’ and we respectfully disagree,’’ said Lew Carpenter, the National Wildlife Federation’s regional representative. “Lawmakers need to remember that the public lands they’re discussing belong to all Americans who cherish them for the fishing, hunting and recreation they provide.’’

 

SFRED understands that energy is vital to our economy and way of life and that decreasing our reliance on foreign sources is important.

 

“At the same time, federal lands are a public trust, managed for multiple uses. Economies across the West rely on the tourism and recreation public lands sustain,’’ said Ed Arnett,  director of energy programs for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “These public lands provide a lifestyle that draws people and businesses to the area. They’re a priceless legacy and a treasure we hope to leave to future generations.’’

 

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Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

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DENVER – The discovery of a spill near a natural gas plant and a creek that flows into the Colorado River “should be a wake-up call’’ for state regulators to finish what was started five years ago – establishing safe setbacks from waterways.

Colorado River 56 miles from Parachute at James M Robb State Park. Photo Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Colorado River 56 miles from Parachute at James M Robb State Park. Photo Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

 

The Colorado Wildlife Federation and National Wildlife Federation noted that riparian buffers for oil and gas wells and infrastructure were one of the issues left on the table when the state overhauled its oil and gas rules in 2008.

 

“We’re all waiting for more details of the spill near Parachute and results from the investigation,  but  whatever the precise facts, this should be a wake-up call for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission,’’ NWF attorney Michael Saul said Tuesday.

 

State and federal agencies are investigating and helping in the cleanup of a leak of thousands of gallons of hydrocarbons in a pipeline right of way adjacent to a gas-processing plant owned by Williams north of Parachute in western Colorado. The underground leak is about 60 feet from the edge of Parachute Creek, which flows into the Colorado River.

 

“This is one more strong argument for keeping oil and gas wells and related infrastructure a safe distance from waterways,’’ said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “Regulators pledged to form a stakeholders’ group to develop standards for riparian setbacks a while ago. We’re still waiting.’’

 

Saul and O’Neill said better monitoring of surface and groundwater quality is crucial to protect Colorado drinking waters and fish and wildlife habitat.

 

“This might have been detected sooner with better monitoring. We don’t know how long this has being going on,’’ Saul added.

Last year, a spill from an oil well site reached creeks that eventually flow into the North Platte River in Colorado’s North Park area. News of the spill prompted hunting and angling groups to renew a push for buffers around waterways.

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The National Wildlife Federation is America’s conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

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Next week the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry again will engage in one of the largest trade shows I’ve ever experienced. The SHOT Show is the once-a-year gathering place for manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, publishers and wildlife conservation organizations. It’s where a passion for firearms, ammunition and outdoors equipment, plus the industry’s unified support for the Second Amendment, are on display.

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Author Lew Carpenter at SHOT Show 2012 Media Day with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 in .300.

This is the 35th annual SHOT Show. The first SHOT Show was in 1979 in St. Louis, Missouri, and more than 60,000 professionals in the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry attended SHOT Show in 2012. In addition more than 2,000 members of the outdoor and mainstream media, including international media, cover the show.

It’s an incredible event, and one where today’s important issues will be discussed with, no doubt, a wide spectrum of opinions. Top-tier issues that affect this industry will certainly include universal background checks for gun buyers, modern sporting rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In 2012, modern sporting rifles (like the one seen in the picture above) accelerated in popularity. This year’s show will be no different, with an abundance of peripheral accessories to compliment these popular rifles. As hunters and shooting enthusiasts we all have a responsibility to engage in honest, open discussion about the safety of our communities and family members. SHOT Show is an important gathering place where people of integrity will have these discussions.

Other issues of concern to sportsmen will also be on tap. Primarily, conservation.

Personally, I have been engaged for the past four years in the Vanishing Paradise campaign – a movement to restore the Louisiana wetlands. And, as many of you understand, the Mississippi River Delta supports incredible fishing and is the winter home for 70-percent of the waterfowl in the Central and Mississippi flyways.

Vanishing Paradise team members Andy McDaniels and Land Tawney wait for waterfowl in the Louisiana wetlands.

Vanishing Paradise team members Andy McDaniels and Land Tawney wait for waterfowl in the Louisiana wetlands.

Due to efforts by Vanishing Paradise and other conservation organizations, The RESTORE Act last July passed through Congress with strong support from the sportsman’s community, and we can expect that most of the money (80-percent) from any Clean Water Act fines will be sent back to the states affected by the spill.

Unfortunately, the oil spill isn’t over—and America’s hunters and anglers know it.

Every week it seems that scientists discover a previously unknown consequence of the spill. For example, scientists recently announced  that species like mahi mahi—if even briefly exposed to small amounts of oil while still in their eggs—grow up unable to swim as fast as unexposed fish.

It is not surprising that in one recent poll, 81% of hunters and anglers said they thought BP should pay the maximum penalty for their role in the spill.

Last month, the Department of Justice hammered out a plea agreement where BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle the criminal claims against it. Importantly, the company also acknowledged negligence in the deaths of 11 rig workers.

But this criminal settlement doesn’t mean it is all over—far from it.

The Justice Department is still pursuing civil claims against BP under our nation’s environmental laws. If found guilty of gross negligence at trial—and Justice seems to think it has a strong case—BP would face fines in the range of 20 billion under the Clean Water Act alone.

The company also faces billions of dollars in assessments under the Oil Pollution Act. This law requires the company to pay the costs of restoring the Gulf back to the condition it was in at the time of the disaster. To give you a sense of the potential scale, if BP paid the same amount per gallon as Exxon did in the Valdez case, we’d be looking at roughly $30 billion dollars for restoration.

These may seem like large numbers, but it will take an investment on this scale to make the Gulf whole again. It is the Department of Justice’s job to see that BP is held fully accountable. And it is our job, as hunters and anglers, to keep the heat on the Justice Department to make sure it happens.

Please speak up and demand that BP own up to its carelessness in the Gulf and that the Justice Department hold the company fully accountable. America’s hunting and fishing legacy depends on it.

Out West

SHOT Show is also an important place to discuss areas out West where I, like many of you, hunt mule deer, elk, pronghorn and other great species. If you have an interest in supporting and saving our great western hunting legacy, OPL_Sigplease see the Our Public Lands website. Ourpubliclands.org is a place for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to get information about the public lands where they enjoy their favorite activities. The public lands issues on the website focus on:

FRIENDS OF COLORADOOUTDOORS.NET

Finally, SHOT Show is a place to reconnect with old friends. And although there are too many to list here, I’m going to take a moment to highlight two great partners who have helped with the Vanishing Paradise campaign and whose senior leadership have been friends of mine for decades.

RealTree Camo has developed the industry’s most realistic pattern ever. Last week the company unveiled its new camo pattern, Realtree Xtra, also available in Realtree Xtra Green.Image

The breakthrough in camo pattern realism comes from a combination of design and printing technology that delivers three distinct fields within one camo pattern: a foreground, mid-ground, and background.

“New Realtree Xtra and Xtra Green truly live up to their names, giving hunters extra effectiveness in the field,” said Realtree Designer and President Bill Jordan. “All throughout the development process, we focused on creating incredible depth, visual confusion and 3D effects in the pattern mid-grounds and backgrounds while still retaining total sharpness and detail in the foreground elements. The result is as close to nature as we’ve ever gotten.”The Realtree Xtra and Realtree Xtra Green camo designs feature 12 warm, natural colors-one with more green. The new designs provide all-season utility for hunters and outdoorspeople. Its subtle shadows, highlights, and textures blend with more terrain and lighting conditions than any other camo pattern available and make Realtree Xtra the most versatile camo on the market.

And our friends at Plano Molding have completely remodeled the Plano website. The new and improved version showcases all Plano products and is much easier to navigate. It also features videos and articles by members of photoPlano’s pro staff and highlights products that they personally endorse. Head on over to www.planomolding.com and have a look around.

Hope to see you all at SHOT Show 2013 and safe travels to the City of Sin!

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DENVER – A sportsmen’s coalition applauds the Bureau of Land of Management’s balanced decision on the protection of many vital fish and wildlife habitats, but has concerns about the increased risk to the greater sage-grouse.

The final programmatic environmental impact statement released Friday would make about 800,000 acres available for oil shale and tar sands production in northwest Colorado, southwest Wyoming and northeastern Utah. Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development supports the BLM’s move to require more research before issuing commercial leases on public land and believes it is prudent for companies with existing research parcels to show tangible results before additional land is leased.

While many important habitat areas were protected, some key greater sage-grouse habitats in Wyoming were opened to potential development, which is of concern, the coalition said. The National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnerships are the SFRED coalition’s lead partners.

“We need to understand fully the trade-offs we are making before we seal the deal to commit a thousand square miles of public land to this risky business,’’ said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife’s public lands policy director. “If we don’t, good air and water quality, fish and wildlife values could be lost forever.’’

The proposal revises a 2008 plan to open about 2 million acres of public lands in the three Rocky Mountain states to oil shale and tar sands development. The BLM took another look at the plan after challenges from several conservation groups.

“Colorado’s Piceance Basin has the region’s richest oil shale deposits and is also the heart of what’s long been called the state’s mule-deer factory,’’ said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “ The BLM has said oil shale and tar sands development might fragment or destroy wildlife habitat.’’

Northwestern Colorado was home to about 120,000 mule deer in the early 1980s, O’Neill said, but the population had dropped to about 50,000 by 2010.

“Oil and gas drilling has increased substantially in the area and more development is planned,’’ she added. “We don’t know how much more pressure the herds can bear.’’

Hunters and anglers commend the Interior Department for taking a more prudent approach to oil shale and tar sands development, said Ed Arnett, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Responsible Energy Development.

“We support responsible energy development,’’ Arnett added, “but oil shale remains an unproven source of energy and we don’t know how much water or electricity will be need to unlock the oil in the rocks.’’

The region’s public lands are crucial for hunting, fishing and recreation, all sustainable, important parts of the economy, said Brad Powell, energy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project

“The region’s fish and wildlife populations are dependent on the availability of clean, cold water. Our water supplies in the West are too valuable to put at risk until the technology is better developed,” Powell said.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

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Critical wildlife habitat in Hoback Basin encompassed in lease buybacks
made possible through the Wyoming Range Legacy Act

Wyoming Wildlife Federation’s Executive Director Steve Kilpatrick address WG&F, USFS, NOLS and the WWF Board of Directors and staff at the PXP site in August. Photo: Lew Carpenter

WASHINGTON – Under a groundbreaking agreement announced today, 58,000 acres of valuable fish and wildlife habitat in a fish- and wildlife-rich region of northwest Wyoming prized by sportsmen will be permanently withdrawn from oil and gas development.

Located in northwest Wyoming’s Hoback Basin in and around the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the lands had been leased for development by Plains Exploration & Production Company, or PXP. The Trust for Public Land, a partner of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, entered into an agreement with PXP to purchase the leases; upon completion of the transaction, the leases will be retired. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and TPL announced news of the arrangement in Jackson, Wyo., this morning.

The Hoback Basin, a sportsmen’s paradise in northwestern Wyoming, has provided Americans with hunting and angling opportunities for more than a century and is home to outstanding elk, mule deer, moose and bighorn sheep hunting, as well as fishing for Snake River cutthroat trout.

“We are thrilled with the outcome of negotiations between PXP, the Trust for Public Land and others that will conserve critical wildlife habitat for sportsmen and other recreationists to experience and enjoy,” said Ed Arnett, director of the TRCP Center for Responsible Energy Development. “Even the most carefully planned development in this area could have further jeopardized mule deer herds already in serious decline.”

At the Hoback PXP site in August. WWF, WG&F, USFS and NOLS. Photo: Lew Carpenter

Conservation of this portion of the Wyoming Range is critically important to mule deer herds already impacted by energy development on Wyoming’s Pinedale Anticline, which has seen 60-percent losses in mule deer numbers over the past decade. The PXP leases encompass important stopover areas used by mule deer during their seasonal migrations. These areas play a critical role for mule deer – both in the spring, while the deer are building strength to reproduce and move to summer range, and in the fall, when they are gaining weight to prepare for winter.

“This agreement shows that we can find common ground between conservationists, hunters, anglers – and even oil and gas developers,” said TPL Northern Rockies Director Deb Love. “We can come together to solve our toughest problems and reach solutions that are fair to all sides.” The Trust for Public Land must raise an additional $4.25 million by Dec. 31 to complete the transaction.

The energy lease buybacks are made possible under the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, legislation whose introduction and passage was long championed by the TRCP and other sportsmen’s groups. Before his death, Sen. Craig Thomas of Wyoming conceived of the act, which was formally introduced by Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and signed into law in 2009. Among other provisions, the Wyoming Range Legacy Act allows leases to be retired permanently when purchased instead of being resold to other oil and gas companies.

“While the TRCP commends this agreement and the implementation of the Wyoming Range Legacy Act, responsible energy development begins with better planning that avoids such important areas in the first place,” concluded Arnett. “Our goal should be to eliminate the need for buyouts as a mitigation tool as we continue to develop energy resources on public lands.”

Wyoming hunters and anglers identified this area as one of the most important in the state through the TRCP’s Sportsmen Values Mapping Project.

The TRCP believes that to better balance the concerns of fish and wildlife in the face of accelerating energy development, federal land management agencies must follow the conservation tenets outlined in the FACTS for Fish and Wildlife.

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The nation’s public lands are important to all Americans –  including oil and gas producers, hunters, anglers and recreationists – and balancing multiple uses on the lands is crucial to maintaining their sustainability, a representative for sportsmen’s groups told a congressional committee Thursday.

Corey Fisher, Trout Unlimited’s assistant energy director, told the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce that striking a balance between energy production and conservation on public lands is essential for sustaining quality hunting and angling, which contribute at least $76 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

The Missoula, Mont., resident also represented Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development, a coalition led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

“I firmly believe that responsible energy production that balances the needs of fish and wildlife habitats and water resources is achievable and is an important component of a sound economy,’’ Fisher said to the committee, which held a hearing Thursday morning on drilling rates on public and private land.

Federal figures show that oil and gas production is at record levels and the country’s dependence on foreign oil has dropped, the sportsmen’s coalition noted. However, some members of Congress are promoting legislation that would speed up leasing and drilling on federal lands – in spite of the fact that more than 7,000 drilling permits currently aren’t being used and leases on nearly 21 million acres are sitting idle.

“Some lawmakers and industry officials look at the increased drilling on private lands and conclude industry is being locked out of public lands. That’s not the case,’’ said Kate Zimmerman, public lands policy director for the National Wildlife Federation. “Besides, public lands are different from private lands. They’re managed for more than private profits. Federal land managers have an obligation to conserve fish and wildlife and recreation values, all of which are critical to the long-term economic vitality of many communities in the West.’’

Hunters and anglers support responsible energy development on public lands and welcome recent common-sense leasing reforms that address potential conflicts upfront and have reduced the number of lease protests.

“Energy development on public lands that doesn’t consider its impacts on fish, wildlife and air and water quality fails to fulfill the Bureau of Land Management’s multiple-use mandate and irreparably damages our nation’s outdoor heritage,’’ said Ed Arnett,  director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Center for Responsible Energy Development. “It creates conflict and delays for companies and results in the kinds of poorly planned energy projects that drove down mule deer populations in western Wyoming and are increasing air pollution in parts of the Rocky Mountain West.’’

No one, including sportsmen, likes unnecessary regulations and rules, Fisher said.

“But we don’t think the measures in place to ensure balanced development are unduly blocking leasing and drilling. They’re helping maintain quality hunting and angling, which help sustain rural economies across the country,’’ he added. “Sportsmen in Montana, and throughout the West, rely on public lands to fill their freezers, make memories and pass on our traditions to our sons and daughters.’’

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

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